Myths and Legends of All Nations Famous Stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources

Page: 122

So Twardowski determined to enter the gates of hell. At his magic speech the ground opened and he began the path of descent. Blue flames lighted the way. Deeper and[Pg 241] deeper he went through dark and winding passages. At last he reached the underworld itself, and many awful sights did he behold.

And the farther he went the more frightened did he become. He could not help feeling that the devil had plotted something against him. Finally he found himself in a small room, and cast a hasty glance around, looking for a means of escape.

Seeing a child in a cradle in one corner of the room he seized it hastily, threw his cloak around it, and was about to leave when the door opened and the Evil One entered.

He made a respectful bow and said, "Will you be good enough to go with me now?"

"Why so?" asked Twardowski, obstinately.

"Because of our agreement."

"But," said the magician, "only in Rome have you power over me."

"Yes," replied the devil, "and Rome is the name of this house."

"You think to trick me by a pun; but you cannot. I carry this talisman of innocence," and throwing aside his cloak, he disclosed the sleeping child.

Anger showed in the face of the devil; but he stepped nearer to Twardowski and said softly:

"What are you thinking of, Twardowski? Have you forgotten your promise? The nobleman's word is sacred to him."

Pride awoke in the breast of the magician.

"I must keep my word," he said, laying the child back in the crib, and surrendering himself.

On the shoulders of the devil two wings appeared, like the wings of a bat. He seized Twardowski and flew away with him, mounting higher and higher into the night. The[Pg 242] magician was so terrified and suffered such anguish in the clutches of the Evil One that in a few moments he was changed into an old man, but he did not lose consciousness. At last so high were they that cities appeared like flies and Krakau with its mighty turrets like two spiders. Deeply moved, Twardowski looked down upon the scene of all his struggles and all his joys.

But higher and higher they went—higher than any eagle has ever flown—and more lonely and more fearful did it seem to Twardowski. Only occasionally bright stars passed by them, or fiery meteors, leaving a long streak of light behind.

At last they came to the moon, which stared at them with dead eyes. Then a song that Twardowski had read in his mother's hymn book rose to his lips. And as he repeated mechanically the prayer his mother had taught him an angel suddenly appeared and said:

"Satan, let Twardowski go; and you, Twardowski, hang you there between heaven and earth, to atone for your sin until the Last Judgment. Then will you be reunited with your mother in heaven. The prayer which you remembered in your hour of need has saved you."